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Opioid Lawsuits: What You Need to Know

As more and more people fall victim to opioid addiction, more and more lawsuits are being filed. States are suing drug companies, addicts are suing doctors, and the federal government is starting its own investigation into the crisis. But who's liable for opioid addiction? The addict? Doctors? Drug manufacturers? All three? Here's what you need to know about opioid lawsuits and addiction liability. 1. Can I Sue My Doctor for Opiate Addiction? Physicians owe their patients a duty of care, and can be liable for medical malpractice if their prescription of opioids -- either the dosage, the type of drug, or the failure to notice your developing addiction -- constituted a breach of this duty. 2. Can Doctors Be Liable for Patient Overdoses? As noted above, normally patient overdoses are dealt with in a medical malpractice claim, or, unfortunately, in a wrongful death claim. But in rare instances, doctors also have been charged with and convicted of murder in overdose cases. 3. Can You Sue a Drug Company for Opioid Addiction? Successful lawsuits blaming a drug manufacturer for addiction are rare; courts often find addicts liable for their own addiction and the drug companies too far removed from the use to be liable. But that could be changing in the opioid context. 4. Are Drug Companies Liable for Side Effects? Drug companies have a duty to warn of known dangers. So if you're claiming that a drug manufacturer knew how addictive an opioid was and failed to warn either doctors or patients, you may have a better shot at proving the manufacturer's liability. 5. Liability for Drug Overdoses Tragically, some addictions end in overdoses, and many of those can be fatal. Wrongful death lawsuits can look a little different than a standard medical malpractice or product liability claim, so it's important to know how liability may be different as well. If you or someone you know is dealing with an addiction to opioids, get help now. Then consider contacting an experienced personal injury attorney. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Cherokee Nation Sues Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens for Opioid Abuse (FindLaw's Injured) West Virginia Counties Sue Drug Manufacturers Over Opioid Crisis (FindLaw's Injured) Ohio Is the Latest State to Sue Over Opioid Crisis (FindLaw's Injured)
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New Law Makes Drug Possession a Misdemeanor in Oregon

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana back in 2015. But what about other Schedule 1 narcotics like cocaine, meth, or LSD? While the Beaver State isn't planning on legalizing those any time soon, it is rolling back the penalties for their possession. A new state law will downgrade first-time drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, so long as the amount is under a certain limit. So to which drugs does the new law apply? What are the limits? And how does that change the possible criminal penalties? Possession, Priors, and Penalties Oregon's HB 2355 applies only to first-time offenders, so those with prior felony convictions or with two or more prior convictions for drug possession can still be charged with a felony. The new law also does not change penalties for possession of large, commercial amounts of illegal drugs. Here are the drugs, and amounts addressed by the new statute: Cocaine under two grams Methamphetamine under two grams Heroin under one gram Oxycodone under 40 pills MDMA/Ecstasy under one gram or five pills LSD under 40 units Instead of looking at five to ten years in prison, those charged with first-time drug possession are instead facing a maximum penalty of just one year in prison and/or a $6,250 fine. Police, Policy, and Profiling Both the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association supported the measure, saying convictions include unintended consequences like barriers to housing and employment. But the groups also had some reservations. "Reducing penalties without aggressively addressing underlying addiction is unlikely to help those who need it most," the groups warned in a letter to a state senator who backed the bill, adding the law "will only produce positive results if additional drug treatment resources accompany this change in policy." Another bill appropriated $7 million that can be used to pay for drug treatment. The new law also attempts to address police profiling by directing a state commission to develop methods for recording data concerning police-initiated pedestrian and traffic stops. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Drug Possession Is No Longer A Felony Offense In Oregon (Huffington Post) Recreational Marijuana Sales Now Legal in Oregon (FindLaw Blotter) Oregon Looking to Legalize Pot (FindLaw Blotter)
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Federal Agents Raid Los Angeles Casino for Allegedly Laundering Money, Again

An ongoing investigation against the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, a city in Los Angeles, resulted in federal agents raiding the casino and closing the gambling floor this week. Since the warrant issued for the raid by a federal district court judge was filed under seal, there are only a few details about the investigation. However, this same casino was found, after a 1991 investigation, to have been built using drug money. Although numerous gamblers speculated that the raid was a result of rigged gaming tables, unnamed media sources clarified that the casino is under investigation for money laundering. Casino patrons holding stacks of chips will be pleased to know that the casino reopened this week after investigators finished their search. However, there may be some more legal trouble in their future, depending on what the search discovered. What is Money Laundering? The crime of money laundering occurs when a person exchanges illegally obtained money, such as the proceeds from the sale of drugs, stolen goods, or other criminal activities, for "clean" money. Many financial institutions are regulated in such a way that certain transactions are monitored for suspicious activity. However, businesses that operate with modest, or even sometimes large amounts of cash can sometimes fly under the radar of authorities, as we learned in Breaking Bad. Penalties for Money Laundering Money laundering is a relatively common type of white collar crime. Depending on whether charges are brought by federal or state authorities, the penalties for money laundering can vary. State laws tend to mirror federal laws, but vary from state to state. Typically, the penalties will increase with the amount of money laundered as well as the number of transactions. While one-off offenses can result in only misdemeanor charges, simple fines and short jail sentences, multiple money laundering transactions can lead to multiple offenses and felony jail sentences of several years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How Stacks of Cash Get People Arrested (FindLaw Blotter) Founder of For-Profit College Gets Prison Time (FindLaw Blotter) Feds Punish NY Corruption: Sheldon Silver Sentenced to 12 Years (FindLaw Blotter)
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College Students Arrested Allegedly Selling Xanax to Undercover Officers

Four college students at DePaul University in Chicago have been arrested for selling over 100 Xanax pills to undercover officers. The sales occurred on four separate occasions, for various quantities and prices, over the last few weeks. While Xanax is commonly used to help individuals with serious anxiety or other mental health issues, the drug is also sought after by recreational users. Despite the fact that it is legally available to individuals with a prescription, an individual cannot legally distribute or sell Xanax, or any other prescription drug for that matter, to any other person. Unfortunately for both legal and illegal Xanax users, the drug is reportedly highly addictive, which can lead to severe dependency issues. Selling Prescription Drugs Is Illegal Although individuals can legally purchase prescription drugs if their doctor provides a prescription, without the prescription, it is illegal to buy, or even possess, prescription drugs. This is because prescription drugs are considered controlled substances, similar to the traditionally illegal drugs, like cocaine or heroin. As such, they're regulated by the federal government, as well as state law. Like most state and federal drug laws, penalties for possession and illegal sale of prescription drugs will vary depending on the type and quantity of the drugs involved, as well as the circumstances surrounding the sourcing of the drugs. For instance, if an individual is discovered manufacturing an illegal prescription drug, they could be facing much more severe penalties than for simply possessing, or buying, an illegal prescription. Penalties for Selling Prescription Drugs Since prescription drugs can be legally obtained via a prescription, many times individuals will steal prescription pads in order to get their supply from a legal drug store. However, doing so can result in serious related criminal charges for fraud, or even conspiracy. Also, doctors who are found to be complicit in prescription drug schemes can face censure and serious penalties from medical licensing boards, in addition to serious criminal charges related to drug dealing. For first-time possession offenders, frequently the penalties will not be severe, or rise beyond the level of a misdemeanor. The penalty may not even include any jail time, unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a stolen prescription pad. For first-time distribution offenders, penalties usually will include jail time, and are likely to be charged as a felony. Related Resources: Hit with a drug charge? Have the charges reviewed free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) If Roommate Sells Drugs, Can You Get Arrested? (FindLaw Blotter) Ice Cream Truck Driver Sold Oxycodone Pills from His Truck (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Drug Trafficking/Distribution (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Federal Criminal Prosecutions Fall to 20 Year Low

According to new research released by the PEW research center, federal criminal prosecutions are on the decline. The new numbers show that federal criminal prosecutions have been on a consistent decline since 2011, and have even fallen to a 20 year low. Much of this is credited to the visionary approach implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder to not prosecute every federal crime, but to focus on those where there is a substantial federal interest. Since 2011, there has been an approximate 25 percent reduction in new federal criminal cases. Federal prosecutors have gone from charging over 100,000 new cases a year, to charging about 77,000. The most common type of federal crimes that get prosecuted involve drug charges. Despite the recent trend among states to legalize marijuana, there are many other types of illegal drugs, and federal drug charges still account for the majority of federal prosecutions. However, over the past 5 years, there has been nearly a 25 percent reduction in drug prosecutions alone. Federal Crimes Prosecuted Less Most criminal prosecutions are handled by state and local prosecutors. However, when an individual violates federal criminal laws, such as those related to drugs, guns, or financial crimes, federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges in the federal court system. Also, deportation cases are also considered to be federal criminal prosecutions. Although violent crimes make up only a very small percentage of federal criminal prosecutions, that does not mean violent criminals get a pass. Typically, violent crimes are prosecuted by the states. According to the PEW research center, over half of all state prisoners have been sentenced due to violent crimes, compared to less than 10% of federal inmates. The only area where federal prosecutions were noted to have increased involved a small increase in prosecutions for gun and violent crimes. Looking Forward Although the newly appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is taking a strong stance and wants to increase federal criminal prosecutions for drug and gun crimes, he will have to do so with a shrinking budget as the DOJ is one of the many agencies that has impending budget cuts. Related Resources: Daylight Savings Time Could Reduce Crime Rates (FindLaw Blotter) 10 States With the Highest Rates of Violent Crime (FindLaw Blotter) Gang Membership Up, Violent Crime Rate Down (FindLaw Blotter) What Is a Special Prosecutor? How Does It Relate to Recusal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Why Voter Fraud Doesn’t Matter, but Allegations of Rigged Elections Do

A lot of accusations get tossed around come election time, and this year has been no exception. Some are old -- accusations of voter fraud have been thrown around for at least a decade and have spawned strict state voter ID statutes. Some are new -- few candidates, if any, have claimed outright that an election is rigged and refused to say they will accept the results of an election if they lose. Both claims sound serious, striking at the heart of our democracy. But the negative effects of one of these charges have been disproven, while the consequences of the other may be right around the corner. The (Mostly) Myth of Voter Fraud The claim goes something like this: unscrupulous voters could register to vote in more than one place, vote in districts where they don't live, vote more than once, or provide false information to election officials. And as Justin Levitt noted in the Washington Times, this can be a real concern: "This sort of misdirection is pretty common, actually. Election fraud happens ... Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam." And then there's pretending to be someone else at the polls, which Levitt describes as a "clunky way to steal an election." Levitt began tracking allegations of voter fraud, and looked at "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014," a data set containing at least 1 billion ballots. And in all, found just 31 specific, credible allegations of voter fraud at the polls. To put that number in context, all 31 of those votes would not have been enough to swing the state of Florida for Al Gore in the 2000 election. As Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., put it, "You're more likely to get struck by lightning in Texas than to find any kind of voter fraud." The Very Real Voter ID Law Response In response to allegations of voter fraud -- or for more sinister reasons that courts have touched on below -- some states began passing voter ID laws requiring voters to present some form of identification at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Voter ID laws can vary from state to state, from strict photo ID requirements in some states to no ID requirement at all in others. In general, courts have upheld these requirements. In 2008, the Supreme Court looked at Indiana's ID law that required a person to present a U.S. or Indiana ID in order to cast a ballot. (Voters without a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot, and had to visit a designated government office within 10 days with a photo ID or a signed statement saying they cannot afford one in order to have their votes counted.) The Court found the law constitutional, even though the state failed to produce any evidence of the kind of fraud the law was passed to prohibit. But some courts have started to push back on overly restrictive ID laws. The federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down North Carolina's voter identification requirement, but for reasons that may be unique to the state. Along with requiring photo ID in order to vote, the North Carolina law also abolished same-day voter registration and ended preregistration. But it wasn't just the text of the law that the court had a problem with -- it was the context: ... the General Assembly enacted [the laws] in the immediate aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting. The district court clearly erred in ignoring or dismissing this historical background evidence, all of which supports a finding of discriminatory intent. Because the law was passed with discriminatory intent, the court ruled it invalid. Given the near absence of any in-person voter fraud, it's fair to wonder whether these voter ID laws accomplish the goal of preventing fraud, and, if not, what they actually do prevent. Critics of the laws point to a disparate impact on minority and senior voters -- those less likely to have an ID -- and many believe voter ID laws were passed with that purpose in mind. The Fourth Circuit felt the same in its opinion on North Carolina's ID law: "Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices" the court noted. The state's General Assembly then acted on that data in multiple ways, "all of which disproportionately affected African Americans." The Dangerous Allegation of Election Rigging Since August, Donald Trump has been suggesting that the "election is going to be rigged." And the type of fraud he's alleging -- "People are going to walk in and they're going to vote 10 times, maybe, who knows?" -- is exactly the kind that voter ID laws are intended to stop and the kind that happens just 31 times in fourteen years. But the fact that an election can't be rigged or could not effectively be swayed in the way Trump imagines doesn't make his claims any less serious. The legitimacy of any representative democracy is the belief that the government officials selected to represent the people were chosen fairly, and that their presence in government is the will of their constituency. To suggest a rigged election, or a corrupt election process, is to undermine that legitimacy. Absent the legitimacy of elected officials, the laws they enact and represent also lose their legitimacy. And, according to recent psychological studies, the perceived legitimacy of law effects whether people follow it or not: ... people who respond to the moral appropriateness of different laws may (for example) use drugs or engage in illegal sexual practices, feeling that these crimes are not immoral, but at the same time will refrain from stealing. Similarly, if they regard legal authorities as more legitimate, they are less likely to break any laws, for they will believe that they ought to follow all of them, regardless of the potential for punishment. Delegitimizing the election's process and results can have dangerous consequences, both during and after the election. ...
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Arrested for Vaping?

There aren't many places left for the cigarette smokers of the world. Pushed out of offices, airplanes, bars, and even some sidewalks, the choice is either to quit or to smoke at home. Or, find something that isn't "smoking." Many new and long-time smokers are turning to vaping instead, in the hopes of circumventing anti-cigarette ordinances. The question then becomes, what's the difference between smoking and vaping, and can you get in trouble for vaping the same way you can get in trouble for smoking cigarettes? Burning vs. Vaping A recent New York case seemed to go in vapers' favor earlier this year when a New York judge ruled that vaping and puffing on e-cigarettes does not constitute "smoking" under the state's anti-smoking law: "Smoking" means the burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco. An electronic cigarette neither burns nor contains tobacco. Instead, the use of such a device, which is commonly referred to as "'vaping,' involves "the inhalation of vapourized e-cigarette liquid consisting of water, nicotine, a base of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin and occasionally, flavouring." This does not fit within the definition of "smoking" under the law. It's lucky for this defendant that he was charged under the state's anti-smoking statute, rather than New York City's Smoke Free Air Act, which also bans e-cigarettes. When it comes to vaping and e-cigarette legislation, cities are generally ahead of states, which have themselves been ahead of federal regulations on vaping. Dora Explores Vaping in the Girls' Room Another place where anti-vaping rules may differ is in schools. Fatima Ptacek, the 15-year-old voice of the eponymous lead character in the Dora the Explorer cartoon, was suspended for three days from her NYC private school after being caught vaping in the girls' bathroom. Ptacek was caught with another girl, puffing caramel-flavored water from a vaporizer that she claims contained no tobacco or drugs. "At first, we didn't know how to turn it on, but then we figured it out," she said. "We both sucked in from the vaporizer, but I was a little scared, so I didn't inhale into my lungs but kept it in my mouth." Regardless of the general differences between smoking and vaping, or what was in this particular vaporizer, schools are generally allowed to set their own regulations when it comes to on-campus behavior, especially private schools. The other girl's parents are suing the school, but because they believe their daughter was unfairly expelled as the "scapegoat" in the incident and Ptacek received special treatment based on her celebrity status. Laws and regulations on vaping can vary from city to city, state to state, and school to school. So before your puff your way into an arrest, check with a local criminal defense attorney about smoking and vaping laws in your area. Related Resources: Facing criminal charges? Get your case reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) Vape: Oxford's Word of the Year Spells Legal Trouble (FindLaw's Legal Grounds) CA Congressman Puffs E-cig at Legislative Debate (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Is It Legal to Ban E-Cigarettes at Work? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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Dear President Obama

Dear President Obama, I am a criminal defense attorney, and at the prodding of one of my colleagues, Marjorie Peerce of Ballard Spahr, I have volunteered my time to screen clemency petitions through the Clemency Project, a project to provide free legal assistance to federal prisoners serving longer sentences than they would have received if sentenced today.  In this role, I review multiple clemency petitions and evaluate whether an executive summary should move on to the project’s steering committee.  It is overwhelming how many individuals are languishing in prison with life sentences who are low level drug offenders with no history of violence. Being a small part of helping to right the wrongs created through overcriminalization has been rewarding beyond belief. But it has also been a stark reminder of the injustice endured by so many of our nation’s prisoners. In my work with the Clemency Project, I agreed to prepare an executive summary to support a petition for clemency for an old CJA (Criminal Justice Act) client of mine who received a 200 month sentence for selling 58 grams of crack. The importance of this responsibility cannot be overstated.  It feels different than defending someone facing a charge – this is a person’s last chance in my hands. To get to know the personal story again behind this human being is both tragic and disturbing. He grew up with parents plagued by addiction and witnessed both his mother and father using cocaine in the family home from an early age.  His father died when he was twelve, a tragedy that sent him into a downward spiral.  He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and became so addicted to narcotics himself that, for the six years leading up to his arrest, he spent every day getting high on drugs to feed his crippling addiction.  Eight months after he was sentenced in this case, his mother died from HIV.  My heart broke when I discovered that, in the close to ten years he has been incarcerated, no one has gone to visit him. I wanted to get in my car and go visit him myself. The facts of the case and his criminal history don’t even begin to justify a double-digit prison sentence for a 23 year-old young man. I am disturbed and outraged at how our system has hurt this young man. All I can think about as I am finalizing the executive summary to submit to the Clemency Project is that my work is not enough. I am consumed with the thought that I must reach out directly to you, Mr. President. My hope is that I can express to you the magnitude of the injustice that occurred here, and that I can implore you to use your discretion to right this wrong.  My hope is that I can help you see what I see about this young humble and kind man who never had a chance in life to be more than a small time street level drug dealer. My fellow defense attorneys who’ve seen these kind of injustices might say that no one is ever going to see this letter, that it is a useless effort.  We know that we are up against steep odds whenever we represent a defendant charged with a drug offense.  We tell ourselves these are the crack guidelines, and we can’t change that.  We tell ourselves that this is a tough judge, and we can’t change that.  And in spite of our pleas for leniency or even just a fair sentence, we walk away having to swallow our outrage, understanding that we can only do so much to change the system. Our cynicism, shaped by years of injustice, makes us think that no one in power is ever going to care about the cause of an insignificant young man like my client, certainly not the President of the United States. I am writing to you, Mr. President, because I believe you do care. I have been troubled by this case for ten years and although I am grateful that, in your presidency, you have shown concern for these issues, I somehow want you to hear that a young man was designated a career offender for selling 58 grams of crack when he had previously been charged with having sold cocaine on only two prior occasions of such small quantities that in one instance he only made $15.00. And as this was unfolding, like in so many other cases, those entrusted as officers of the court stood by and acted as if it was normal and commonplace: simply our criminal justice system at work. I want to ask you to meet my client and learn the tragic story that brought him to where he now sits, in prison. I want you to be the one that finally visits this young man, not as a PR opportunity but to truly see him and talk to him. This act would serve as an acknowledgment that his life really does matter.  I want you to bear witness, with me, to the severity of what our criminal justice system did to him.  In my mind, this would be a meaningful step in repairing the injustice, which could change his life forever. The post Dear President Obama appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Guest Post: Marjorie Peerce’s Commitment to Clemency Project Should Be an Inspiration to All

Every once in awhile, we meet people who truly inspire us to be better people and better lawyers. Marjorie Peerce is one of those people. As a partner in the New York office of Ballard Spahr she focuses her practice on white collar, regulatory and commercial defense. Yet since 2014, in addition to her busy practice, she has made time to work tirelessly to recruit and train volunteer lawyers to provide free legal assistance to federal inmates who may be eligible to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the President of the United States. Over 3,000 attorneys across the country have volunteered their time to work on this project, including 100 lawyers from Ballard Spahr. Every application submitted by Ballard Spahr is reviewed by Marjorie. She recently saw the first fruits of her labor and that of her colleagues when, on March 29, 2016, Obama granted clemency to 61 federal inmates, 25 of whom came through Clemency Project 2014 and two of whom were represented by Ballard Spahr attorneys. To put this in context, on April 23, 2014, former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced the DOJ’s initiative to encourage qualified federal inmates to petition to have their sentences commuted or reduced by the President. Under the clemency initiative, the DOJ is prioritizing applications from inmates who meet the following criteria: • Currently serving a federal prison sentence and likely would have received a substantially lower sentence if convicted of the same offense today; • Non-violent, low-level offender without significant ties to large-scale criminal organizations, gangs or cartels; • Have served at least 10 years of their prison sentence; • Do not have a significant criminal history; • Have demonstrated good conduct in prison; and • Have no history of violence prior to or during their current term of imprisonment. Approximately 35,000 inmates responded to a Bureau of Prisons questionnaire indicating that they believe they meet the clemency criteria. After the clemency initiative was announced, the Administrative Office of Courts determined that inmates do not have a 6th Amendment right to counsel for the purpose of seeking clemency. As a result, federal money cannot be used to pay attorneys employed by the Federal Defenders or through the Criminal Justice Act to represent inmates under this initiative. In an effort to address the need for federal inmates to obtain legal assistance in submitting clemency applications, Clemency Project 2014 (“CP 2014)” was formed by lawyers from the Federal Defenders, American Civil Liberties Union, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the American Bar Association, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (“NACDL”). CP 2014 lawyers screen inmate requests to determine if they meet the clemency criteria, assign a volunteer lawyer to prisoners who appear to qualify, then assist the inmate in filing the clemency request. To date, 250 clemency applications have been granted by the President; approximately 60 of those applications came through CP 2014. I spoke to Marjorie about the two individuals recently granted clemency by the President who had been assisted by Ballard Spahr attorneys. Kevin County, a 43 year old African American, was convicted in New Orleans for selling small amounts of crack cocaine and heroin. Because he had a prior felony conviction, he received a sentence of 20 years (240 months) in prison and has already served 167 months. He was scheduled for release in 2020. Under current law, Mr. County would have been sentenced to 70-80 months in prison. Last week, Marjorie, together with Joanna Jiang and Erica Leatham, the Ballard Spahr attorneys who worked directly with Mr. County, called Mr. County in prison to tell him that he had been granted clemency by the President and would be released in July. Mr. County’s response was simple but powerful: “God bless you! Thank you!” Marjorie spoke to the New York Times after the announcement and praised President Obama for commuting the sentences of 61 federal inmates including Mr. County and stated “[t]he war on drugs from the 1990s resulted in inordinately harsh and long prison sentences for offenders who did not deserve to serve that length of time.” The other Ballard Spahr client, Angela Laplatney, was represented by Ballard’s Salt Lake City office, including Blake Wade and Melanie Clarke, also received a grant of clemency from a 20 year sentence for selling methamphetamine in Wyoming. Ms. Laplatney had served over 10 years of her sentence and was scheduled to be released in 2022. She, like Mr. County, will be released in July. Marjorie is grateful to Ballard Spahr for supporting the work of CP 2014, and noted that “pro bono is ingrained in the DNA of the firm.” She likewise praised the work of her NACDL partners, Jane Anne Murray and Norman Reimer, who serve on CP 2014’s Steering Committee with her, through which they certify that applications submitted through CP 2014 meet the clemency criteria. Marjorie told me that in over 30 years of practicing law, her work with CP 2014 has been “the single best thing” she’s done. She is on a mission to help as many federal inmates as possible who are serving sentences that, under current law, are “obscenely severe.” The recent grants of clemency by the President have further fueled Marjorie’s drive to help these inmates, and there is no doubt that her efforts in recruiting, training, and mentoring volunteer attorneys will pay off and change the lives of people who, until now, have been resigned to spending many more years in prison. Marjorie’s enthusiasm for CP 2014 is contagious. Lawyers who, like Marjorie Peerce, are willing to give up some of their time to work on this project will cherish the rare opportunity to change lives. By: Sharon L. McCarthy Partner, Kostelanetz & Fink, LLP New York, New York The post Guest Post: Marjorie Peerce’s Commitment to Clemency Project Should Be an Inspiration to All appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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5 Reasons Travel Insurance Policies Are Invalidated

You are planning a holiday trip and looking forward to it. Everything is ready from your bags to your mini toiletries and travel insurance. So now you can just relax, right? Well, not quite. You can relax, but maybe not with a drink, and certainly not with any illegal drugs, and probably not if your plans include any extreme sports. Here is a list, adapted from the Consumer Insurance Guide, with the top five reasons that insurers give for invalidating travel insurance. Traveler Top Five 1. Failure to disclose. Although trip insurance is for a much shorter time period than your regular health insurance, you still must disclose your medical status. Pre-existing medical conditions, including mental, nervous, or emotional disorders, that are not disclosed can invalidate your insurance. 2. Failure to prepare. If you do not take your prescribed medication while traveling, or ignore a doctors' orders to avoid travel, that may invalidate trip insurance. It is also possible that any claims will be denied if you seek treatment resulting from a tropical disease for which there was a vaccine that you did not take. Similarly, claims resulting from sexually transmitted disease or self-inflicted injuries will likely end up denied. 3. Alcohol and Drug Use. Almost every insurance policy has a clause stating that there is no coverage from injuries resulting from use of illegal drugs or excessive drinking. Be particularly wary of these clauses and read the fine print on your trip insurance very carefully. You may not consider the amount of alcohol you consume "excessive" but you can probably bet that an insurer's standards are more strict than your own. As for drugs, even if a substance is legal in the locale you are visiting, it is possible and even likely that an insurer's policy will be used to invalidate a claim. 4. Extreme sports and general adventurousness. While extreme sports fans see their activities as thrilling, an insurer sees almost any adventurousness as risky. That means if you have plans to ride mopeds, jet ski or bungee jump, among other activities, you need to check that insurance will cover these in advance. If you plan to skydive, speak to a specialist, the Consumer Insurance Guide recommends. 5. Reckless or illegal behavior. This is a kind of catch-all category on almost every policy that allows an insurer to deny a claim with some ease. Even if your behavior does not end with you charged with a crime, an insurer can nonetheless invalidate your policy based on behavior it deems reckless. Need a Drink? If you find all those limitations on your insurance confusing and you need a drink now, do not despair. You are not alone. Insurance is very complicated and policies are often deliberately difficult to understand. Talk to a lawyer if you need a hand with your trip insurance or any other policy. Counsel can help ensure that you are covered to the full extent. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer (FindLaw Directory) Air Travel Rules FAQ (FindLaw) Hotel Questions and Answers (FindLaw)
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